Although it may be hard to believe, the Pterophyllum scalare or Angelfish is a member of the cichlid family. Luckily, they are not as territorial or destructive as most of their relatives. For many people, Angelfish are instantly recognizable and in fact, are one of the oldest and most beloved species in the aquarium hobby. These elegant creatures have extremely elongated dorsal and anal fins and very laterally compressed bodies.
They can reach a length of 6 inches and a height of 10 inches (including fins). Angelfish have been bred in captivity for decades and are now available in numerous colors and patterns. Among them are the Silver, Black, Half Black, Gold, Zebra, Marble, Gold Marble, Smokey and Albino variants.
The body shape of the angelfish is unlike that of other members of the cichlid family.The shape of this species enables it to move deftly in and out of reed stems, while its coloration camouflages it perfectly when at rest among the plants.
There are two species of wild angelfishes: Pterophyllum altum and Pterophyllum scalare, from which color varieties have been developed. Selective breeding programs have resulted in many different color strains of this species.
The Angelfish’s native habitat is the lush Amazon River where they hunt for small fish and insects. Although most of the specimens found in pet stores today have been captive bred, they should be kept in conditions that mimic their ancestor’s natural environment. Their tank should be decorated with numerous plants, pieces of driftwood and some rocky structures. The temperature in the aquarium should be kept between 76-82 F with a pH of 6.5-7.2. Angelfish will consume all types of food but their diet should consist of a variety of meaty foods such as brine shrimp, bloodworms, specially formulated cichlid pellets, freeze-dried worms and shrimps, etc. As far as tank mates are concerned, Angelfish usually get along well with each other and most types of fishes (provided they are not small enough to swallow). They should not be kept with any large, fast moving, or aggressive fishes.
If you are interested in breeding Angelfish, it is best to begin by obtaining a group of juveniles and raising them together. Once they have reached sexual maturity they will pair off and can be moved to their own breeding tank. After selecting a spawning site, usually a flat rock or plant leaf, the Angelfish will begin cleaning it. The female will lay up to a thousand eggs and the male will fertilize them. It is common for Angelfish to eat their eggs so some choose to move them to a separate container. If the eggs are removed, be sure to provide them with gentle aeration as well as anti-fungal medication and regular water changes. The fry should be free swimming in about a week and can be fed newly hatched brine shrimp as well as finely ground flake foods.
Angelfish are popular because of their elegant outlines and graceful swimming action, and also for their intense parental care during breeding. Both parents guard and fan water over the eggs, which are laid on leaves and stems. A deep tank of at least 30 gallons with soft, slightly acidic water is required for these angelfish to develop fully. Angels will generally mix in a community tank, but be aware they can grow to over six inches in length and may not mix well with fish that stay much smaller. Also their long fins make them easy targets for fin-nipping species.